Deputies Handcuff Fire Captain Trying To Aid Injured Woman

Leadville Officials Accuse Sheriff Of Plotting 'Takeover' Of Fire Department

The Leadville city officials are blasting deputies who briefly jailed and cited a fire captain trying to aid a woman with a broken neck at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

Underlying the dispute, fire union officials say, is a campaign by Lake County Sheriff Edward Holte and Emergency Manager Jeff Foley to combine operations of the sheriff’s department and Leadville Fire Department.

Leadville Mayor Bud Elliott called it "a giant power grab" by sheriff's officials. He and Fire Chief Bob Harvey said they're concerned the jurisdictional clash is jeopardizing the public's safety.

The dispute ignited March 27 when Leadville Fire Capt. Daniel Dailey, an emergency medical technician, responded with two fellow firefighters to the sheriff's office after deputies called a hospital ambulance for the woman injured during a domestic violence incident.

There are conflicting accounts about what happened next.

Dailey told the Leadville Herald Democrat that his fire EMT crew arrived before the Saint Vincent Hospital ambulance. Dailey said deputies tried to deny the fire crew access to the patient, insisting on waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

But in a written statement and interviews Thursday, sheriff's officials said Deputy Steve James wanted to keep the fire EMTs outside, because the ambulance crew was already inside caring for the woman and he didn't want to crowd the upset patient.

"The deputy (James) who had the ambulance team on scene ... was of the opinion that there were enough personnel on the scene and that the addition of the three firemen would serve no purpose other than to further upset the victim and her children," the sheriff's office statement said. Deputies told the fire crew "they were not needed."

However during an interview Thursday afternoon with 7News, the sheriff said, "the fire department was in the building first, the ambulance [team] was in the building second."

Finally, deputies told firefighters if they didn't leave, they would be arrested.

Dailey told the deputies that he would rather be arrested than leave a medical scene, the Herald Democrat reported.

Deputies handcuffed the fire captain and placed him in a holding cell for an hour and fifteen minutes.

Dailey was eventually cited for "obstruction of a governmental operation" and released, the sheriff's office said. Sheriff's officials referred the case to the district attorney who will decide if formal charges are warranted.

The two other fire crew members left the scene after they were threatened with jail, too.

The ambulance crew eventually transported the woman to the local hospital, but not before calling back the two firefighters for assistance.

"I never thought I would be in jail, with handcuffs on for trying to take care of a patient," Dailey told the Herald Democrat. "I took an oath to protect the community and its citizens. I was doing that to the best of my ability, and my freedoms were taken away because of it."

The sheriff insisted he does not want to takeover the local fire agency.

"The intention of my office and my people is not to be a fire department, but to be able to enhance what the fire department does," Holte told Thursday. "My guys are cops, they want to be cops, but they also want to be able to help the community.

The sheriff said his staff wants to support public safety by assisting with emergency medical treatment, fire fighting and hazardous materials incidents.

"It is not that we want to be taking over things. It's that we want to be able to help," Holte said.

This was a softer tone that Holte used during an earlier Herald Democrat interview.

By showing up on a scene without being dispatched, firefighters "disregard our authority and abilities," Sheriff Holte told the local newspaper. "It's like a slap in the face."

The fire chief was outraged that his captain was jailed for trying to help a patient.

"It's reprehensible," Harvey told Thursday.

"This is what we're all about is being there to render aid, to assist and care," Harvey said. "So this could have been more appropriately handled had my crew been allowed to begin the basic life support and stabilization procedures on this patient. And then taken care of (the jurisdictional dispute) later."

Firefighters are vowing a protest rally Monday.

“Preventing a first responder from administering care to a victim is unforgivable," International Association of Fire Fighters 9th District Vice President Randy Atkinson said in a statement. "The Lake County Sheriff’s Department should issue an immediate apology to the victim and to the Leadville Fire Department, and the deputy whose terrible judgment led him to arrest Captain Dailey should step down because he is unfit to serve the public."

"This frontier justice is an abuse of power,” Atkinson added. "The sheriff’s department is free to disagree with us, but he is not free to arrest those who disagree with him."

Fire union leaders noted that the deputy who cited Dailey is involved in training sheriff's staff to become firefighters.

“Without question, the arrest of Captain Dailey by Deputy James -- a fired volunteer firefighter who is training members of the sheriff’s department to become firefighters -- stems from the sheriff’s anger over our resistance to his attempted takeover of the Leadville Fire Department,” Leadville Local 869 President Zac Pigati said.

As a result of this incident, a city police officer will escort fire crews on all their calls, the mayor said.

Elliott called detaining Dailey "a real abuse of police powers and an abuse of dispatch protocols that are being used as a political tool."

Elliott stressed that the protocol is to have fire medical crews respond to emergencies at the county jail, adding that the sheriff cannot unilaterally change the protocol.

The mayor said sheriff's dispatcher's reluctance to call fire EMT's may have contributed to one death.

"We had an incident where a lady’s dad was visiting (Leadville) and had a heart attack," Elliott said. "She called 911 and she was doing CPR." Sheriff's dispatchers did not dispatch fire department "until much later."

"A sheriff deputy only responded. By the time an ambulance got there, the guy had died," the mayor said.

The sheriff wants to cross-train his officers so they can also provide fire and paramedic service, the fire union statement said.

But fire union officials said the plan to have one person do both jobs – known as a “public safety officer” -- "has been widely discredited and has failed in communities throughout North America because of the difficulty training one person to do such diverse jobs."